The reelection of President Obama is a catastrophe for conservatives that will set the United States on a track from which it will be difficult to derail. But the task for the Right is not impossible.
Obama’s victory is not a catastrophe, as some will maintain, because conservatism can’t prevail in an presidential election. The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, is not a conservative, and he failed to assertively articulate conservative ideas.
Rather, it’s a catastrophe because Obama’s left wing agenda will now be ensconced more firmly than ever, and some portions of it may never be dislodged.
Republicans lost the presidency, failed by a mile to retake the Senate, but retained the House. So conservatives will have to fight a rear guard action to resist further movement to the left, an engagement in which they can be partially, but not fully, successful.
Obamacare is now here to stay. The United States will move inexorably toward socialized medicine, and the quality of health care for all will begin to decline irrevocably.
Federal spending, which stands at its highest level since World War II, will stay right where it is and perhaps increase. Dependency on government will become better established as a way of life. Government will intrude in ever more creative and pernicious ways into the daily lives of Americans, as Obama rules by fiat to the greatest extent possible and issues regulations affecting myriad aspects of our lives.
As more people become acclimated to receiving government largesse, fewer will be open to conservative ideas about self-reliance. Businesses will find it more difficult than ever to operate as the burdens of rules and paperwork weigh them down.
Some within Republican circles will argue, in effect, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That Republicans must moderate their message to appease a public that has rejected conservative ideas.
But Republicans just did moderate their message. They ran Mitt Romney as their candidate.
Conservatives will have to think not how to water things down, but how to sell their program to people who have failed to embrace it. They need to bring Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans into their tent. Not by making their philosophy more appealing to them, but by appealing their philosophy to them.
Republicans have to be unafraid to explain the tough choices facing America, the sometimes hard solutions conservatism offers, and the brighter future these solutions will bring.
America will become a more dependent country under Obama. But the evidence of decay will mount. And the demand for sweeping change will return.
And then, with patient confidence that Americans – all Americans – have the strength and intelligence to embrace messages that aren’t popular with the media or cool with Bruce Springsteen, conservatives must make their case.
Americans respect leaders who have principles and stick to them.
Republican candidates at the presidential level who followed Ronald Reagan have never really understood the value of standing for something. And they’ve never respected voters enough to present the conservative case. They think voters just want to hear the sappy news that government will take care of them. Republicans have to take the time and have the patience to explain why this doesn’t quite work.
The American spirit of initiative, self reliance and private charity will be depleted over the next four years. But it won’t be gone. And that’s why Obama’s reelection is a catastrophe, but not the end, for conservatives.